Anne Applebaum wins 2013 Cundill Prize


Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956 earns $75,000 prize, largest international prize for work on history
Published: 21Nov2013
Author Anne Applebaum is the winner of the 2013 Cundill Prize in Historical Literature at McGill University for her book, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956. The announcement was made at a gala dinner held last night in Toronto. At $75,000 (US), the Cundill Prize is the largest international literary prize for a work on history.

Applebaum’s winning book describes the circumstances under which Stalin was able to convert a dozen countries to a Communist system of government following the Second World War, and chronicles what daily life was like for citizens once these changes had occurred.

“Every year, it gives me enormous pleasure to see the calibre of submissions that pass before the Cundill selection committee,” says Prof. Christopher Manfredi, Dean of McGill University’s Faculty of Arts, who administers the prize, with the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC). “I can truly say that Anne Applebaum is a deserving winner, chosen from amongst a field of high-quality works.”

“I’ve been fascinated by the history of communism ever since, as a student, I spent a month studying Russian in Leningrad. To go to the Soviet Union at that time, before glasnost, felt like walking into a mirror: everything was backwards. Even the colors had vanished, replaced by black and white,” says Applebaum. “Two decades later, I began to ask myself: if it was so absurd, how did it get built in the first place? How did the grim Russia I saw in the 1980s come to be? How did it spread its system into the heart of central Europe? What was the appeal of Soviet-style communism, if any? That line of thinking led me to the research which led to this book.” Applebaum is Director of Political Studies at the Legatum Institute in London.

The two other finalists, Christopher Clark— The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went To War In 1914 (HarperCollins / Allen Lane – Penguin Books), and Fredrik Logevall—Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam (Random House), were awarded "Recognition of Excellence" prizes of $10,000 (US) each. The finalists were chosen from 116 eligible submissions, representing publishing houses from around the world.

The three finalists were introduced at the awards ceremony by Jeffrey Simpson, The Globe and Mail’s national affairs columnist. This year’s Cundill Jury included Garvin Brown, Brown-Forman Board Chairman, Anthony Cary, Executive Director of the Queen’s-Blyth Educational Programs, Sergio Luzzatto, Modern History Professor, University of Turin and 2011 Cundill Prize winner, Marla R. Miller, Professor & Director, Public History Program and Graduate Program Director, University of Massachusetts, and Thomas H. B. Symons, Founding President of Trent University and Vanier Professor Emeritus.

The Cundill Prize in Historical Literature is the world’s largest international historical literature prize, with a grand prize of $75,000 (USD) and two ‘recognition of excellence’ prizes of $10,000 (USD).  The prize was established in 2008 by McGill alumnus F. Peter Cundill, who passed away in January 2011, and is administered by McGill University's Dean of Arts, with the help of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC).

 To read more about the winner, Anne Applebaum:

 To read more about the Cundill Prize, visit

 Photos available upon request

Contact Information

Cynthia Lee
McGill University
cynthia.lee [at]
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